Westward expansion is again underway, now the Civil War is over. The two brothers Reid have a disagreement about the requirements of justice. The elder is a Texas Ranger. The younger an Ivy League lawyer returning to Texas as a District Attorney. Their disagreement concerns capital punishment, also known as execution. The Ranger cannot persuade the lawyer. Whether out of respect for family or office, he will not compel. So he deputizes the youth. Necessity will compel…
This initially shows up as the conflict between reason & faith. The lawyer refuses to sing along with some Presbyterians about gathering at the river. He is silent. He says Locke’s Civil Government is his Bible. He does not understand Locke, but he will, when he sees the state of nature… As for the Christians, their virtue seems to be endurance. When the outlaws start shooting people dead, all they do is endure.
Then it’s the conflict between the savage who wants revenge & the lawyer who wants a court of law to order any execution. So now we know, it’s a conflict about the nature of justice. The theological question was suspended by chaos, but this political question is suspended by outlaws. God may be silent, but the law either wins or loses. The lawyer arrests the Indian, still convinced that someone in jail must be a prisoner.
The older brother leads his posse into a canyon where they are betrayed & slaughtered. He sacrifices his life for justice, for his brother, too. The boy is weak, powerless. When he survives, he is shocked. The Indian agrees with him, calls him wrong brother. The right brother was a friend to the Indians; the Indian knows warriors. Now he must teach the boy to be a warrior.
Warriors ride horses, whose nobility educates them, not trains. & they are either beautiful or they dress to look like death. Tonto tells the Lone Ranger that there are times when good men must wear masks. Justice is not in the city. The wilderness is the truth about the city. Bullet holes are the eyes in his mask. Tonto teaches him to be more terrifying than outlaws.
Tonto ends up in a Wild West exhibit – the Expansion has won, trains have conquered the continent – as The noble savage. He is the one who complains about nature being out of balance & about the demons in the hearts of men who offer bad trades to the innocent. He stands for Locke’s great enemy, Rousseau. Tonto seems to know that justice & resurrection go together. What terrifies criminals is fearlessness. Who does not fear death cares nothing about his own good. For heroes greed means nothing, nor acquisition.
A movie fit for the 4th of July weekend, to say nothing of the blockbuster season. Go see it.